Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Haiti Relief

The two aluminum fast ro/pax ferries built for Hawaii Superferry, but prohibited from sailing on their intended routes in the Hawaiian Islands, have been sent by the US Maritime Administration (MarAd) to Haiti to assist with relief efforts. The two boats, Alakai and Huakai, were built by Austal for Hawaii interisland service, but a protracted legal challenge by environmental groups forced Hawaii Superferry into bankruptcy and the service was discontinued in December 2008. The vessels, now owned by MarAd, can transport people, vehicles and other cargo at speeds of up to 40 knots, and their shallow draft and large loading ramp make them ideally suited for the relief effort, as they can be loaded and unloaded without relying on shore-side facilities.

The ships are crewed by civilian mariners, and join four other MarAd vessels in the aid effort, including the Gopher State and Cornhusker State, based in Newport News, Virginia, the Cape May based in Norfolk, Virginia and the Petersburg, based in Alameda, California.

Like the rest of the country, the maritime community has responded with an outpouring of monetary, logistic and material support for the stricken country. Some of the companies active in relief efforts include:

• Crowley Marine Services, which sent nearly 70 containers of water and MREs (ready-to-eat meals) to the Dominican Republic for transport to Port Au Prince.

• The Canaveral Port Authority, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines International (RCCI), Ambassador Services Inc. and American Cruise Aid Logistics, which are coordinating efforts to provide community-donated water and dry food products, such as beans and rice, as well as cooking oil. 30 pallets were shipped aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas for arrival in Labadee, Haiti on January 26th. 

• Canadian National Railway Company made an initial donation of C$100,000 to the Red Cross in support of the agency’s relief efforts in Haiti, and the company launched a program for employee donations to the Red Cross, matching employee contributions dollar-for-dollar.

• The US Navy also responded to the crisis with manpower and materials, including the 1000-bed hospital ship USNS Comfort, and the US Coast Guard, the first Department of Homeland Security agency to provide assistance to Haiti following the earthquake, continued to provide support in the form of aircraft – Jayhawk 
helicopters performing medical evacuations and C-130s bringing aid as well as an airlift to Haiti from the US of two Urban Search and Rescue Teams – and cutters Forward, Mohawk, Tahoma and Valiant, providing Maritime Intelligence Support Teams and relief supplies.

“When the sun came up this morning in Port au Prince there was a Coast Guard cutter off-shore providing command and control, assessing the situation, providing situational awareness,” said Admiral Thad Allen, US Coast Guard Commandant. “So within 24 to 36 hours we had three cutters with the capacity to support hundreds if not thousands.”

For those without a fleet of 270-foot cutters, the American Red Cross is accepting contributions at www.redcross.org.

Asian Imports
A new study published in the scientific journal Nature finds that while local and federal governments have been cracking down on local sources of air pollution, a major ingredient of smog, ozone blowing over from Asia, is raising background levels in the skies over California and other Western states.

“This is the first time anyone has directly linked ozone in the atmosphere over the US to Asian pollution,” says Dan Jaffe, a University of Washington-Bothell professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry who contributed data from his observatory on top of Mount Bachelor in Oregon to the study.

While the amounts are small, the study found that the levels have been steadily rising since 1995, and probably longer, and could complicate US efforts to lower ozone levels at home.

Jaffe said it was logical to conclude that the increasing ozone was the result of burning more coal and oil as part of the Asia’s booming economic growth. Fortunately, December’s Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change established firm deadlines for countries to reduce their emissions.

Or did it?

The Financial Times reported late last month that the UN had abandoned its self-imposed climate change deadlines, laid out at December’s Copenhagen summit. Nations had agreed at the time to declare their emissions reduction targets by the end of January 2010, but Yvo de Boer, the UN’s senior climate change official, admitted that the deadline had in effect been shelved.

According to the story by Fiona Harvey in London and Anna Fifield in Washington, de Boer announced that countries would have the opportunity to ”…indicate if they want to be associated with the accord,” by the deadline, “or they can also indicate later.”

“You could describe it as a soft deadline,” Mr. de Boer said. “There is nothing deadly about it. If [countries] fail to meet it, they can still associate with the Copenhagen accord after.”

One wonders what exactly this expensive and controversial summit achieved other than providing an excuse for bureaucrats to travel to Denmark on the taxpayer’s dime.